Thursday, March 2, 2017

Standing on a corner

The travelogue continues. I'm beginning to think that by the time I finish posting about our road trip to the Grand Canyon, we'll be back up on the tundra, but nonetheless, I persist. After we left Walnut Canyon, we stopped briefly at a commercial enterprise, Meteor Crater. It's located between Flagstaff and Winslow and not far south of I-40 so is easy to get to.

Meteor Crater is a rather impressive hole in the ground. The property is privately owned and managed, and they do a nice job of it. There's a small museum with exhibits explaining just what a meteor is, how meteors have been viewed over time, when and how scientists accepted the fact that the crater was indeed the result of a meteor strike and not formed by volcanic action, and what's happening in astronomical research now. I had been to Meteor Crater before when I went through Fundamentals, the National Park Service's employee orientation program, but thought the S.O. and The Younger Daughter might be interested. NPS Fundamentals included a visit to Meteor Crater so the students in the class could get a sense of the differences between the way a private company can manage a site and the way the Park Service has to. A private enterprise naturally has a lot more flexibility in being able to respond quickly to issues like staffing or maintenance emergencies. The up-side is you can make decisions quickly; the downside is that sometimes a decision made in response to a short-term problem leaves you with long-term headaches.

The crater is an interesting natural feature. Most meteor craters end up obscured by vegetation over time, but because this meteor struck in a region that's been desert for millennia it's still well defined.  Not surprisingly, because it is so close to I-40 it gets a lot of visitors. The parking lot was more than half full when we stopped, and there were quite a few people in the museum and in the outdoor viewing areas. Admission to Meteor Crater does include a guided hike along the crater rim, which no doubt could be interesting, but the wind was sufficiently cold that we passed on that opportunity. Instead we decided to get back on the road and look for a late lunch in Winslow, the next town down the highway.

One cannot visit Winslow without indulging in standing on a corner. This activity has proved so popular since the Eagles released "Take It Easy" decades ago that the city created a "Standing On the Corner" park, if a short section of sidewalk and street can merit that designation. There's a statue of a guy with a guitar (I have no idea if it's supposed to represent anyone in particular), a lot of bricks with people's names on them (donors to the park), and a flatbed Ford truck. The S.O. and the Kid both indulged in having their photos taken; I passed. A lifetime of hearing "You look so much better than your photos!" taught me a long time ago that cameras are not my friend.

Photo opportunity over, we went looking for food. The weirdest part about that whole Standing On A Corner park was the total lack of anything else designed to catch a tourist's eye located close to it. There were a couple eateries, both closed. There was a gift shop, also closed. About a block away there was a rather shabby looking Mexican restaurant, possibly open but not looking particularly inviting. And another block or so down Historic Route 66 there was a Church's Chicken. We opted for the chicken, primarily because there didn't seem to be anything else.

There was a historic hotel across the street from the chicken place, a former Fred Harvey hotel designed by Mary Colter, the same architect who designed a lot of the buildings at Grand Canyon Village for the Fred Harvey company, but I couldn't tell if La Posada was open or closed or if it included a restaurant. If it had been a little more obvious in being open for business instead of looking like it was mothballed, we might have done more than look at it through the window at Church's. It is, after all, a National Register property, and, as I have since learned, the last hotel the Fred Harvey company built.

The whole Winslow experience in retrospect seems like a typical Arizona experience. I swear every small town we've seen has the same ambience, that feeling of being post-apocalyptic with very few humans visible anywhere and businesses that have that ambiguous feeling where it's hard to tell if they're still open or if the owner walked away a year or two ago and just forgot to flip the Open sign over when he or she closed for good. Unless the windows are boarded over and there are dead weeds three feet tall in front of a door, it's hard to tell if some places are still in business or went tits up during the Reagan administration. It's a strange state.


  1. I had a friend up north that was the sister to the man that used to live at and run that crater attraction. I suppose he is dead or retired by now.


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